Revisiting erythroleukemia

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Purpose of review

The 2016 WHO classification of hematopoietic and lymphoid neoplasms alters the diagnostic criteria for erythroleukemia, including eliminating the erythroid/myeloid type of acute erythroleukemia, which was a prior subcategory of acute myeloid leukemia, not otherwise specified. Only pure erythroid leukemia remains in the WHO classification. This review will summarize the literature that contributed to that classification change as well as recent literature on the significance of the change.

Recent findings

There is now a large body of literature on the negative prognostic impact of erythroid predominance, defined as 50% or more bone marrow erythroid cells, in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDSs). Recent studies have found similarities between erythroleukemia, especially the erythroid/myeloid type, and the erythroid-rich MDS cases. On the basis of these data, the WHO now reclassifies cases of the prior erythroid/myeloid acute erythroleukemia group based on the total blast cell count. This change moves such cases into an MDS category, usually MDS with excess blasts. This approach, however, may cloud the significance of erythroid predominance in this group of patients.


The report clarifies the current criteria for a diagnosis of erythroleukemia as well as the ongoing challenges in classifying this group of erythroid rich bone marrow disorders.

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